3/02/2002

SAVE US FROM OURSELVES, SHEILA!!!

In an interview in her Parliament Hill office, Ms. Copps declared that U.S. movie moguls who take advantage of Canadian tax breaks while complaining about Canadian content rules are hypocrites, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. is here to stay, and the government's film and TV policy have been a huge success.

She has already said the government is interested in amending legislation to make it clear that paying U.S. distributors for signals delivered in Canada -- known as the grey market -- is illegal. The grey marketers have won lower-court decisions allowing them to stay in business but face an appeal before the Supreme Court. She has said she will not act until the court rules.

Rest assured, Citizens. If the Supreme Court abandons all reason and rules that the Canadian people are mature enough to make their own purchasing decisions, then Sheila and her cronies will fairly fly to Parliament Hill and change any traitorous legislation that would allow such a thing. How about a big shout-out to those wonderful Hamilton voters who, in their wisdom, gave us Sheila Copps.

Sheila is our Shepard, we shall not want.
Lo, though we walk through the valley of the Shadow of the Yankee,
we will fear no television.

Andrew Coyne goes for the easy target in yesterday's column. He does the old 'Yes Minister' script gag but he does it fairly well. Who am I to complain? I took the easy shot myself last week.

2/28/2002

Signs of Slippage

There has been a lot of debate about whether Chretien is going to be able to regain control of the Liberal Caucus. I've been meaning to write an all-encompassing meta-post about the topic but there are just too many stories to follow. If you were going to draw up a list with good news in one column and bad news in another column you would have to file this one in the Bad News column. It seems that Ms. Barnes, the committee chair who's nomination brought about this lovely bit of self-righteous groveling from Marlene Catterall, is having a little trouble handling her disgruntled Liberal comrades.

What the Hell is going on in the Immigration department? Joe Clark is claiming that the Immigration department was informed about illegal aliens from Afghanistan and Pakistan entering the country with stolen documents five months ago and did nothing to investigate the allegation. He claims they were informed shortly after Sept. 11. Denis Coderre, the man who loves to stress that he is the Minister FOR Immigration as if he were being clever rather than banal, says that the matter has been referred to the RCMP. But it was just referred to the RCMP today apparently, which means that an organized effort to smuggle people into this country was ignored by this Liberal government for five months.
I haven't written about the Aspers and their editorial policy in quite some time so I hope you'll indulge me while I indulge myself. Peter Stockland, the editor of the Montreal Gazette, a man whose impartiality is beyond reproach, writes yet another defence of that editorial policy in the Globe & Mail today. I'm going to try (again) to write a reasoned rebuttal and send it in as a letter to the editor. But first; I'll say what I really think here. We'll call it a rough draft.

I've skipped over Stockland's introductory stuff about hockey and will start with this...

As editor of The Gazette in Montreal, however, I think I have a glimmer of understanding as to why elements of Canada's Toronto-centred national media were so prematurely frantic to decry the editorial initiative as a deadly menace.

Another attempt to make this an issue of region against region. It's dishonest and divisive and it ought to be identified as such. No one except but the Southam apologists is concerned about where the editorials are composed. Some clever scribe came up with the brainwave that all the Globe & Mail's editorials are 'national editorials' and 'how come no one is complaining about that?!? hunh? hunh?" The difference, if it really needs to be pointed out, is that the Globe & Mail is not the 'local newspaper' in 90% of it's coverage area. Metro Toronto doesn't have a shortage of editorial voices and, strangely enough, the National Post is quasi-exempted from the Aspers editorials anyway.

Why was so much Globe and Mail ink spilled, so much CBC air time filled, dissecting and denouncing the weekly editorial that appears in only one part of one section of the major Southam newspapers, one day out of seven?

This is an attempt to minimize the problem rather than an attempt to address it. The Aspers have only backed down to the once-a-week position in the face of sustained protest and their very capitulation testifies to the legitimacy of that protest. Three times a week was the advertised policy and your 'one part, one section.... one day' defence is simply an admission that your detractors were justified. But further, the problem that you haven't addressed is the problem that 'local editorials will not contradict' the national editorials. It's not the 'one more voice' that you are defending, it's the 'one voice to replace many' that creates the outcry, as it should.

Why was such effort expended to personally demonize the Asper family of Winnipeg, who bought the Southam chain 18 months ago and introduced the national editorials last December?

Who has 'demonized' the Aspers? The vast majority of the criticisms I've read have been directed at the policy. Granted some personal slagging has occured but the majority of that came from the Aspers. "Irrational tirades," "part of a vacuous strategy of professional whiners," "we fully intend to ignore our disgruntled employees who, I suggest, are motivated by selfishness." Those are the words of David Asper, can you point to a counter-example from the folks who are 'demonizing' the Aspers?

Yet those same critics cast the family as the Aspers of Evil for having the temerity to exercise an undisputed proprietary prerogative. They caricatured and calumnied Southam's owners as baleful interlopers from Winnipeg bent on blighting all that is good in Canadian journalism.

This man is an editor? I call alliteration abuse, plus regionialism, plus ridiculous overstatement (again).

It is here that we get to the heart of the chatter. For the Aspers' real sin was not publishing the same editorial in all its papers. It was not even using the nomenclature "national" to describe that effort. How could it be? The Globe and Mail, after all, has been presuming all its editorials are "national" in nature since the paper's founder, George Brown, began urging Orange mobs to burn Catholic farmers' barns in Upper Canada. (Not even The Globe could sustain the incoherence of depicting as a danger to the nation what it has been doing since pre-Confederation days.)

The truly egregious offence committed by the Asper family was failing to first secure the blessing of the central guardians who presume to know what is best for Canadian consumers of news and opinion. It was leaning out the window and defiantly declaring to the world that owning a prerogative one cannot exercise is mere impotence in disguise. It was, in other words, being outsiders doing things differently than they've always been done in the cozy confines of Canada's media compact.


What a steaming load. I'm sorry, I can't be any more precise than that.

The real harm in the resulting overwrought banging of alarm bells was that it drowned out any opportunity for thoughtful, legitimate discussion about the national editorial initiative. Thoughtful, legitimate concerns that were raised in December, including points made by staff and former editors at The Gazette, were drowned out by ear-splitting whoop-whoop about imaginary threats to the very existence of journalism.

It would be interesting to know what concerns Stockland judged 'thoughtful and legitimate.' It would be more interesting still, to read his defence against those 'legitimate' concerns because this article is nothing more than a series of 'whoops' and parlour tricks.

















Warren Watch

Poor old Warren Kinsella took a bit of a beating over the Liberal leadership rules over the past few weeks. I still think he was right to raise the issue and I think that all of the aftershocks have yet to be felt. But, let's be clear; I'm cheering on Warren because I think that anything that has the effect of destabilizing the Liberal government is a good thing. I can certainly understand why your standard issue Liberal functionary (are there any other kind?) would be a wee bit steamed at Warren for raising the issue of fairness with a rhetorical 'boot to the head.' Let's face it, once you use the 'racism' card you've pretty much fired the big gun and you had better hope that your targets are down for good, because if they get up you've got nothing in reserve. Not only did they get up, they jumped up, whipped out a can of whup-ass, and pounded poor Warren into the dirt. Ouch!

But Warren survived all that and now he's got a small victory courtesy of the Globe & Mail. Careful readers of this site (and there are no careless readers of this site) will remember that Warren had launched a lawsuit against the Globe after his lunch date with Jan Wong went horribly Wrong. Going to lunch with Jan Wong would strike me as a horrible career move at the best of times but what do I know about marketing and promotion? Warren had a worse than average case of indigestion after Wong implied that he was using his child's near-death experience as a sales-prop and he decided to sue for an apology. Now he's got one, kind of. The Globe hasn't actually apologized but they have clarified and that is a much-needed win for Team Kinsella.

Now on to today's news. Maria Minna, Former something or other, has claimed that Warren was behind her getting turfed from cabinet and is angling to take her seat in the next election. I'm not making this up. I don't have that good an imagination.

Now, Ms. Minna has linked him [Kinsella] to her problems too, saying yesterday he is one of several people whom she believes is after her job. But she also thinks that other people close to Toronto city politics, whom she wouldn't name, may be eyeing the Beaches-East York seat. She intends to run in the next election, even if she has been dropped from cabinet.

Now I find it pretty hard to believe that Kinsella is going to try for a Toronto area riding - that's the very heart of enemy territory after all - but it's not the first time I've heard that speculation so who the hell knows? It certainly would add a little spice to the salsa so I have to come down firmly on the side of Warren going for it.

Run, Warren, Run!


Tons of stuff to comment on today... It's weird how nothing seemed very interesting yesterday but today the world is absolutely fascinating. First off, before I get to anything else; how about that BOB DYLAN?!?!



I never watch the Grammy Awards but I heard that distinctive snarl coming from the next room last night and I had to go and check him out. What a hero this guy is. He makes Keith Richards look healthy but he absolutely ROCKS in a way that Jagger, Richards and company can only vaguely remember. He's still angry and he plays and sings like he'd bust you in the chops just as quick as look at you. I dunno if it's a generational thing or not but I don't see anyone coming up in the field of popular music with the integrity and the fire of Dylan. Neil Young and Van Morrison are the only others in the same ballpark and they are both grumpy old bastards as well. Anyway, I just had to get that off my chest.
Long live Bob Dylan!

2/27/2002

Virgina Postrel alerts her readers that those venerable corporate icons Kraft Foods and General Motors are still supporting Al Jezeera, the news agency made famous by Osama Bin Laden. Now I'm normally a pretty 'live and let live' kind of consumer and I've spoken out against boycotts more than once. But if ever a situation demanded a little consumer backlash then this situation is it.

2/26/2002

Back to that Election thing... As I mentioned, I did a bit of number-crunching with the data from Elections Canada that was released on January 24th. (previous posting has the link) I find it kind of amusing to toy around with these things; you can find out a lot about the nuts and bolts of the system by crunching numbers. Everyone knows that the established political parties enjoy a huge advantage over the fringe parties but just how big an advantage is it? Of the 1808 official candidates in the last general election only 685 candidates were eligible for expense reimbursements. That re-imbursement is 50% of election expenses up to a maximum of $70,000 or thereabouts (it's a complicated formula and some ridings can go a bit higher). The catch is that you have to get 15% of the votes cast in order to qualify for the cash, you get 14% and you're outta luck. So in the last election, 1,123 people stood for election and got bupkis for their trouble while 685 people got 50% of their claimed expenses paid back from the public purse to do with as they wish.

Those lucky candidates, broken down by political affiliation;

The Liberals ran 301 candidates and 288 of them got paid an average of $23,085.
The Bloc ran 75 candidates and 69 of them got paid an average of $31,159.
The Alliance ran 298 candidates and 182 of them got paid an average of $22,661.
The Conservatives ran 291 candidates and 87 of them got paid an average of $17,201.
The NDP ran 298 candidates and 57 of them got paid an average of $20,160.

So your best bet if, you'd like a nice cheque after the election, is either run as a Liberal or as a member of the Bloc. If you want to run for the Greens, the Marxists, the Natural Law Party, the Communist party, the Marijuana party, the CAP or as an independent then you'd be wise to hang onto that day job. This all seems a little unfair by itself but we're just getting started...

Remember that the re-imbursement is only 50% of actual expenses so the average Conservative candidate (who qualified) spent $34,402 campaigning for office whereas the average Bloc candidate spent $62,318 on his/her campaign. Mr. Marchand, the losing Bloc candidate who is engaged in a legal battle with his party, received a re-imbursement of $10,998.65 meaning he claimed expenses of just under $22,000. This is the lowest amount claimed by any Bloc candidate and one of only three claims made by the Bloc below the $20,000 level. In contrast; 63 Alliance candidates, 95 Liberal candidates, 26 NDP candidates and 56 Conservative candidates made reimbursement claims below the $20,000 mark. Statistical trends are not proof of anything but it sure seems that the Bloc has managed to work the system to maximum effect, doesn't it?

But there's really nothing to prove. Mr. Marchand is being sued by the Bloc Quebecois for not inflating his expenses!

Lorraine Godin, the Bloc president, claimed damages of $36,362 from Mr. Marchand, alleging that he reneged on a deal he signed with the party before the 2000 campaign to spend at least $66,656 on the election, and give his refund from Elections Canada to Bloc Québécois headquarters.

In his defence and countersuit last week, Mr. Marchand states he owes the Bloc Québécois nothing. He states he was forced to sign two election financing agreements, calling them "illegal, immoral and contrary to good ethics."

Mr. Marchand admits he signed campaign agreements with the Bloc, but says he had no choice or else Gilles Duceppe, the Bloc leader, would not have signed his nomination papers.

"This manoeuvre is designed so that the plaintiff Bloc Québécois obtains the maximum refund from the Chief Electoral Officer, for the purposes of its internal functioning, without necessarily relating to election financing," Mr. Marchand alleges in his court documents.

"This also incites candidates to exaggerate expenses during an election campaign, and to wrongly inflate the value of their invoices without good reason, not in the goal of getting elected, but to enrich the Bloc Québécois by increasing its refunds from Elections Canada after the vote," documents add.


Anyway, there is a whole hell of a lot more to be said about this but I have to call it a night... I'll come back to it.



This story from the National Post, about allegations of fraudulent election expense claims, reminds me that I was playing around with the numbers available at Elections Canada concerning Re-imbursements to Political Parties and Candidates. I downloaded the information and crunched the numbers with an Excel spreadsheet. I had intended to post something about it but it sort of slipped off my plate. I'll try to reconstruct the data and post something a little later.
An email from Rick Glasel;

I think I can tie Slobo-googling, promiscuous information and blogging all together, at least for this email.

Remember how free speech and open debate were stifled in Orwell's Animal Farm? Why are so many "libertarians" trying to shout down signatories to a petition? First thing to remember is that petitions have no credibility, at least on this continent, since people will sign a petition for anything if approached in a friendly manner. Second, unless an army of scrutineers are verifying the signatures, fraud and slander become child's play for anyone with the time to submit fictional or unwitting signatures. Third, online petitions rank even lower than missing child SPAM on the scale of obnoxious Internet litter. Why doesn't the highly vaunted online community discuss Slobo's courtroom strategy or add facts or thoughtful insight to the case against the monster? Why not attack Slobo instead of his battalion of fleas?

Don't underestimate the real power of blogs, and the ability of all that information overload to be transformed into recognizable
patterns. Bloggers still have to be aware that they can contribute to the collective mindset, but they can't control it. If you read Marshall McLuhan and the posthumous books put together by his son, Eric, and Bruce Powers, it is not such a surprise that in an information age, we need fewer and fewer information workers. We are all now contributing to the sum of human knowledge, we don't need professionals to do it for us anymore. The new auditory, tribal society can't wait for analysts to feed information to the rest of us in bite-sized morsels. Information is all around us and there is no place to hide from it. We are becoming like the European tourist who comes to Canada and can't believe that you can walk into the bush for half an hour and get lost, because at home, there is no place to go without crossing paths with somebody else. The only place to hide online is inside the crowd, you can't find a corner where no one bothers to look.

Bloggers are just the latest expression of these kinds of changes in our society. By sharing numerous individual perspectives, without any kind of hierarchical filtering, people around the world form their own opinions, and those opinions get fed back into the discussion, and new opinions come forth from the ongoing debate. The whole process is disorienting and exciting at the same time for a middle-aged boomer like myself, but I don't think we can change it, even if we wanted to.


It is slightly disorienting but it's the very lack of hierarchy that makes it so interesting. My humble little protest has been heard and addressed by most of the folks who took up the slobo-googling task and I'm quite satisfied with that result. I only wish I had that much influence as a voter.

Rick sez:
One last thing, when was the last time it felt this good to be a Canadian?

They all did us proud, didn't they? Sale & Pelletier defined grace under pressure. The Men's Hockey team, after scaring the crap out of everyone, came through like true champions. But my favourite moment was Hayley Wickenheiser after the Women's team won the gold. Straight off the ice, exhausted physically and emotionally, she looked straight at the cameras and told that story about the Canadian flag on the floor of the American's dressing room. I'm not even sure if that story is true but there is no question that Wickenheiser believed it and her defiant pride, after battling through that horribly officated game, was genuinely inspiring. What a warrior - " Bring us that flag and we'll sign it for you," she said. It was a fantastic moment - not polite, not deferential and certainly not about 'good sportsmanship' - it was flat-out beautiful.



Damian Penny sez;
International Law is not my specialty, so I am not well-equipped to debate legal issues raised by Slobo's defence committee. (Signer Christopher Black, a Vancouver lawyer, makes a legal argument against the tribunal here.) I can, however, direct you to independent third parties, like Human Rights Watch, who believe the tribunal is perfectly legal. (HRW also sets forth a prima facie case for Milosevic's guilt.)


I can't agree that HRW is an independent third party. Their extensive coverage of this issue begins and ends with complete assurance that Milosevic is guilty and they even participated in the arm twisting that led to Milosevic being handed over to the tribunal. They may very well be on the side of truth and justice but it is silly to pretend that they were ever impartial. In another release, HRW even rhapsodizes about the 'groundbreaking precedent' that has been established by the surrender of Milosevic to the Tribunal.
"This is a great day for the victims of war in the former Yugoslavia," said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch's International Justice Program.

Damian again;
By the way, I don't believe the Jurist article cited by Garvin (as "making a pretty compelling case" that Milosevic's extradition was illegal) makes any legal argument at all. The writer, Marjorie Cohn, quotes Ramsey Clark and other "International Action Center" officials as expert sources, and recycles the argument that NATO is guilty of war crimes against the Serbs, but she never says why Milosevic's trial is illegal.


Kostunica, adamantly committed to due process, insisted that Yugoslavia's judicial procedures be followed before Milosevic was delivered to the ICTY in The Hague. The deportation, which Kostunica said could not be characterized as legal and constitutional, violated Yugoslavia's constitution, parliament, Constitutional Court, and decisions of President Kostunica.

A fundamental principle of international law is complementarity: the international tribunals complement - they don't supplant - the courts of nation states. Most of the former Latin American military leaders charged with human rights abuses that occurred in the 1970s and 1980s are facing justice in their respective countries. The Yugoslavians should be able to judge their own leaders before they are judged by the international community.

- from the Jurist article.

Black's article introduces so much material that is new to me that I couldn't hope to comment on it with any degree of certainty. Suffice it to say that I think there are legitimate reasons to object to Milosevic's detention by the Tribunal. I won't argue those reasons just yet but I will assert that they exist.






Where to begin with this Milosevic thing?

I suppose I should start with Matt Welch, the guy who first issued the call to Google those petitioners. Welch is reporting this morning that he is retiring from the Slobo-Googling game. He repeats the argument that signing the petition makes the signer 'fair game' and he links to a marathon screed by Justin Raimondo which apparently sets out the case against the arrest and detention of Milosevic. I say "apparently" because I don't have 48 hours to read the damn thing. I don't know how Mr. Raimondo expects to convince anyone of his position, there must be 100 links in that article and anyone with any other demands on their time simply looks at it and hits the Back button. Brevity is the soul of wit, Mr. Raimondo.

Welch also links to a new blog dedicated to the sport of Slobo-googling.

David Janes has admitted to being a little overzealous in googling one signatory and has toned down his criticism as a result. Credit to David for correcting himself. That correction does raise an issue though; people that have control over their own websites can revise and moderate their language at their leisure but people who post to Usenet or to web-forums can not easily do the same and may not be able to do so at all. That's the point about 'Google chill' - if I know that I have some embarrassing content out there on the net then I am going to be very hesitant to take a controversial position for fear that some enterprising searcher will try to discredit me with it. Just to be clear; I do believe that people have the right to Google each other but I think we need to consider the wisdom of doing it when it takes on the scent of a smear campaign.

Peter Briffa, perhaps feeling slighted, suggests I am bored with the topic since I didn't give him a proper response yesterday. I didn't mean to be dismissive but perhaps I did give that impression; Sorry. I simply disagree that people had been addressing the issue in most instances and I had made that point a number of times already. It is boring to repeat yourself endlessly but I could have been a little more polite about it.

Ben Sherif makes some good points.
There is a legitimate argument against the Slobogoogle (something I've been doing as frantically as anyone). The argument would run that each individual political argument should be judged on its own merits, rather than being tarred by an argument from (lack of) authority. Therefore we shouldn't dig up dirty political secrets about signatories: we should address the petition on its merits.

Yes. That's my position.
However, though there may be statements in the petition that aren't completely absurd, we've already judged that the petition has no merits. What the Slobogoogle does is soothe the nagging doubt that the signatories may know something that we don't. Every tribute to Mao, or Stalin, or Pol Pot that we discover provides more reason to doubt the validity of their praise of Slobodan. There may remain a remote chance that they're right this time, but writers with a consistent history of communist apologias, belief in the need to "break some eggs" or construction of baroque conspiracy theories a rather less likely to be talking sense than someone who doesn't claim that NATO might as well change its name to North Atlantic Zionist Interregnum."

This is a pretty good argument for the practice and, so long as the subject's previous political commentary is the target, then I have no objection to it. I'm still uncomfortable with the 'let's get em' attitude but I suppose discomfort comes with the territory.

Someone (I forget who, sorry) said that "at least we are not publishing addresses and phone numbers" but in fact, some links have included that information. Some 'incriminating evidence' that has been posted was first run through on-line translators which are notoriously unreliable. (Don't believe me? Take any passage of english text and run it back and forth through an online translator - you will scarcely recognize it.) I think a great deal of caution should be displayed when trying to publicly discredit someone and some of this stuff seems awfully reckless to me. In the same way that the petitioners are stained by their association with political extremists, the cautious "slobo-googler" is stained by an association with his more extreme cohorts.

This is long enough... I will cover anything I missed in another post.













2/25/2002

Peter Briffa, who proudly proclaims that his blog is 'Britain's most reactionary website,' sends along some... thoughts;
"Garvin is being far too 'sensitive' to the numbskulls. He seems to assume the Slobophiles know that their every opinion and utterance is somehow worthless. Says who? Think of it from their point of view, goon! The way I see it, they'll be only too delighted at being slobogoogled and having their views exposed to a wider audience. These guys think they're right! Garvin appears to think that somehow in a moment of weakness they rashly typed out an opinion two years ago and are now hanging their heads in shame. Where's the evidence? Take them seriously. They think they're right, that's why they make these statements and sign these petitions. They're not being 'stifled', 'embarrassed' and they certainly don't think their opinions are stupid or even 'very stupid'. They do however, think that you, Lawrence my friend, are a wimpish liberal who, come the revolution, will end up on the pyre just like the rest of us. I mean, supposing the slobophiles had a Slobophobes-googling fad, and named Garvin and Penny and the rest among the suspects, would Garvin be outraged? Get a grip!"

I guess he told me!

An interesting commentary from John Ibbitson. The topic is plagiarism but it could just as well be 'Slobogoogling' for all that.
Today, anyone with a computer and a modem can read any major newspaper. All of us can access professional journals, interest-group publications, the latest rant of the obsessed amateur. Thanks to powerful new search engines, this information is easy to reach, prioritize and digest. And the parallel miracle of e-mail allows us to share our discoveries instantly.

Information has become promiscuous. Everyone can have as much of it as they want. People cut, paste, attach, copy, forward, cc, group mail. It's a miracle.

But there are fewer information workers to process all this information. For the past 10 years, all the major media organizations have been stripping down their work forces, even as the urgency to get the product out has accelerated in the wake of ever-fiercer competition, proliferating specialty channels and on-line newsrooms. The magazine and book markets are under similar pressure.

So, of course, things are getting sloppy. We are accessing and downloading massive amounts of information, with very tight deadlines, and with only the most casual nod to the source. The beast must be fed, and information is the food. The kids simply mimic the adults.


I particularly like that line about 'Information becoming promiscuous". It is apparently quite easy to obtain vast amounts of personal information about anyone online with nothing more than a credit card and the curiousity required to obtain it. Would it be 'fair comment' to do credit checks or criminal record searches on people who sign petitions? What about searching the Land Registry to see what they paid for their house?




Both Damian Penny & David Janes have responded to my criticism and both make a fairly compelling case.

Here's Damian;
I see Lawrence's point, but I cannot agree with his assessment. By definition, as soon as you voluntarily post an opinion on the web, that opinion - no matter how stupid or radical - is immediately exposed to everyone. This is not like we're lurking in the bushes outside their home, with telephoto-equipped cameras, trying to take pictures of them through the bedroom window. When I run someone's name through Google, the only items I find are items that these people wanted to express to the world. Otherwise, they wouldn't have posted them. We may be mercilessly mocking their opinions, but that's a risk you take every time you write something for the internet.

More importantly, while I would never say anyone should be prevented from expressing an opinion, some peoples' opinions are so vile, amoral and disgusting that they deserve to be mocked and humiliated. I have no qualms about putting Milosevic apologists in that category.


Well, that's just the thing; how are you defining "Milosevic apologists?" If I agree that Milosevic's arrest and detention occurred outside of both domestic and international law, does that make me an apologist? I see a lot of instances where people are mocked but very few where that argument is mocked. Even people who are wrong about a) b) & c) can be right about x) y) or z). If Milosevic really was kidnapped and detained illegally then I would consider signing that petition myself. That doesn't mean that I'm a supporter of Milosevic, it simply means I'm a supporter of due process.

As for Damian's argument that anything presented online is 'fair game' I'd have to concede the point, but I think 'investigators' can do more to discredit themselves then their intended targets if they don't play the game fairly. In my opinion, it's fair to mock a person for sloppy thinking in the present case but it is manifestly unfair and 'chilling' to page through their back issues looking for lapses of judgment that have nothing to do with the present case.

David writes;

That all said, the question is, have we crossed a line here (with SloboGoogling)? I say, no, for a simple reason: I don't think we've uncovered a single word that the petition signers would repudiate. We are defeating them with their own words, on their own terms.

I disagree. One of your own posts disproves this contention. The fellow you were Googling had been accused of stalking someone because of a consumer protest that he engaged in. The fellow had been ripped off and was warning people not to deal with the woman who had defrauded him. For you to repeat that 'stalker' allegation without finding out the facts is unfair and irresponsible.

Also, the Jurist article which you linked made a pretty compelling case that Milosevic's arrest and detention was an extra-legal action. I'd like to see someone refute the argument instead of digging up dirt on the signatories to the petition.

David goes on to make a couple of additional points;

Should speech be without consequence?
Obviously, from a strict legalistic point of view, the answer should be no (beyond the "yelling 'movie' in a crowded firehouse rule"). The point Lawrence is driving at is (I believe) in civil discourse, at what level do we stop? There is no clear answer to this -- it depends on what is being said. Inherently however, signing a petition is a public act; it is saying: I want you to know that I support this. When what is being supported is reprehensible, the bar has been set fairly high for response, and I believe SloboGoogling falls well under that bar.

I can't argue with that.
Blogging as new media; bandwagon jumping
This may set me apart from some of my fellow bloggers, but I don't really think blogging is much more than a frivolous (but amusing) waste of time. Yes, we can fact check your asses. Yes, I know that Mark Steyn and others pull issues, facts, and opinions from the blog world -- a good thing, to be sure. But the fact is that to some degree we've formed a little self-congratulatory circle of opinion, chasing the same stories, expressing the same outrage, and trying to maximize our daily click count from each other. I like doing this, and I enjoy reading all your collective works, but I don't confuse this with spending time with my family or friends.

I started doing this primarily because I wanted to learn how to express my opinions better. That when someone says "why do you believe this?", or "why shouldn't we eat the rich?", I should be able to say "Because of (a), (b), (c), and the meat is too fatty". Post-September 11th, I decided that as a citizen of country that I wasn't feeling particularly proud of, if my opinions were to have any value whatsoever, I should put them in a place where they could be developed, scrutinized and commented upon. I spotted Recovering Liberal, found Blogger, and here I am. Does it make a difference? I'm one person in a country of 30 million -- if my opinion is worth at least 1/30,000,000th, I'm coming out even, if not ahead.

Sometimes I take this blogging stuff seriously and sometimes not. I think everyone who blogs is, at heart, a frustrated writer. We try not to take it too seriously but we wouldn't bother at all if it meant as little as we sometimes pretend. Obviously this issue would carry a lot more weight if we were writing in the pages of The New York Times but it seemed important enough to mention even at this level.









2/24/2002

All due respect to my countrymen, David & Damian, but I think this latest blogger bandwagon illustrates exactly why 'bandwagon jumping' is such a questionable practice. The story so far; someone found an online petition in support of Slobodan Milosevic and Matt Welch issued a call for people to Google search the folks who had signed it as a sort of distributed discrediting of the petition. It seems to me that mocking the argument is one thing but efforts to dig up dirt on people for the sin of expressing an opinion - even a very stupid opinion - that just goes beyond the pale.

Every time I start to speak about free speech (and I talk about it a lot) people rush up to tell me that 'only the government can act as a censor.' True enough. But people can certainly reveal a lot about their own dedication to the principle of free speech by their reactions to an offensive opinion. People often talk about 'libel chill' as an impediment to speech, perhaps we can coin a new term - "Google Chill". Don't express a controversial opinion unless you are prepared to have your worst online moments exposed to everyone. We Bloggers seem to be a self-congratulatory lot, on the whole, calling ourselves the 'new media' and hyping our influence on the 'real world.' I think, if we are serious about doing this new media, that we ought to be serious about what we do with this new media. I think Googling people for the purpose of embarrassing or stifling them is the equivalent of the gutter press. If you can't humiliate them with their own argument then perhaps you ought to leave them alone.